Great Britain

Covid ‘likely to get worse again’ as new variants spread, Biden warns

US president Joe Biden issued a warning to Americans as news of another coronavirus vaccine, produced by Johnson & Johnson, being approved was announced.

Mr Biden, speaking on Saturday, said Americans should continue social distancing and mask wearing, amid concerns around new Covid-19 variants.

The president also warned Americans that the country’s pandemic will likely “get worse again” as new – and potentially more infectious – coronavirus variants continue to spread.

"Though we celebrate today's news, I urge all Americans: ‘keep washing your hands, stay socially distanced, and keep wearing masks,’" Mr Biden said in a statement.

"As I have said many times, things are still likely to get worse again as new variants spread, and the current improvement could reverse."

Roughly 100 million doses of the vaccine are on order, with as many as 20 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to be delivered to the US government by the end of March.

The US has already administered about 72.8 million doses of a vaccine into the arms of Americans, following vaccines produced by Moderna and Pfizer being approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in recent months.

When all three vaccines are delivered, Mr Biden said there will be “enough vaccine to vaccinate all Americans,” in remarks made earlier this month.

Despite the progress of the vaccine roll-out, two Covid variants first reported in the UK and South Africa have raised concerns around infection rates and fatalities – that have started to fall after a winter surge, but remain high.

Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told CNBC on Friday that falling infection rates appeared to be stalling, as she issued similar warnings to the US president.

“The latest data suggest that these declines may be stalling, potentially levelling off at still a very high number,” said Dr Walensky, with the average daily number of cases above 70,000 for the past fortnight, and rising.

She added: “I want to be clear: Cases, hospital admissions and deaths all remain very high, and the recent shift in the pandemic must be taken extremely seriously,”

Additional reporting by Reuters.

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